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The Legislature has now passed a package of bills which have been signed into law by the Governor. This would include LB45: Military Honor License Plates, LB 56: state auditor experience requirements, LB74: population thresholds for annexation and suburban development, LB80: classification of law clerks under county attorneys or public defenders, LB131: requirements for urban growth districts, LB132: updates to provisions relating to improvement districts and extraterritorial zoning jurisdictions, and LB134: updates to regulation of Nebraska’s egg industry. In addition, a number of “revisor” bills which clean up expired statutes were also signed by the Governor.
This list adds to the deficit bill for the fiscal year ending in June, LB22, which was signed into law in February. It also adds to LB119, which delays the certification date for state aid to schools to assist with the budget shortfall.
Since late February, the Appropriations Committee has been conducting public hearings on state agencies’ budget requests, as well as bills brought to the Committee. Public hearings for the Committee are nearing completion, which should be finished by March 17th.
The Committee then moves to the next stage in the process in late March when it reviews all agency budget requests and begins drafting the budget bills to be advanced to the floor. During this time, adjustments to the Governor’s recommended levels of funding for state agencies will be made and by April 24th it moves to the legislative floor for debate by the body as a whole.
The budget will appear on the floor as a package of bills. These can include the mainline budget, constitutional officers’ salary (i.e. other elected officials and judges), legislators’ salary, cash fund transfers, capital construction projects, and deficit bills for the next biennium. The next biennium will be for the fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The bills which I introduced continue to advance through the process. LB99 has now moved to the second round of debate- Select File. It is a bill that would require business entities to give notice to their lenders when they convert their form of incorporation. LB100 and 101 still sit on the first stage of the process- General File, where most deliberation occurs. LB100 would streamline the standards of proof used by mental health boards when determining the ability of petitioners to buy or possess firearms and LB101 makes the bidding process for the State’s main administrative arm, the Department of Administrative Services, more competitive by putting limitations on contract renewals and extensions.
A few of my other bills have been advanced from their respective committees to General File, including LB151, 222, and 496. LB151 would add oversight measures to state agencies during the auditing process by empowering the State Auditor to conduct post-audit reviews. An amendment was added to the bill by the Government, Veterans and Affairs Committee which would amend numerous other bills into it relating to the State Auditor.
LB222 would implement oversight measures into Nebraska’s Tourism Commission following its recent mismanagement issues last year. LB222 would restructure the Commission’s board, require the adoption of formal rules, regulations, and would clarify its innovative grant program. Senator Clements has officially “prioritized” my bill, which moves it up in the Speaker’s agenda.
LB496 would address workforce shortages in rural Nebraska by incentivizing housing developments to attract workers to those areas. This would apply to all cities in Nebraska with the exception of Lincoln, Omaha, and municipalities with a population smaller than 800 people. Senator Williams has prioritized this bill.
There are still a number of my bills being held in committee which include LB221, 540, and 611. Additionally there are a couple of “shell” bills being held. Shell bills are placeholders which can be used to make adjustments to the budget later on this session. LB221 is a budget bill which would make adjustments to the Water Sustainability Fund for FY2017-18 and 2018-19. LB540 would address Nebraska’s budget deficit by temporarily reducing the “needs based” component of the TEEOSA formula. Lastly LB611 would require state agencies to provide additional information on the Federal funds they receive during the budgeting process. This has been prioritized by my committee.
There are still many challenges that lie ahead before the end of session. The state faces a growing budget shortfall of over $1 billion through the end of fiscal year 2020-21. The Legislature reduced this number by $134 million through the 2016-17 deficit bill, but those cuts were offset by another $153 million reduction in the State’s tax revenues reported at the end of February. Our fiscal situation will force the Appropriations Committee and the Legislature to make a lot of tough decisions to balance its budget. I have prioritized LB233, a bill by Senator Smith that was requested by the Department of Revenue.
As always, I remain open to your feedback on how I may address the issues that mean most to you. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions you may have. Thank you to those who have taken the time to express their views on various issues. My contact information is located on the right hand side of this webpage.